CULTURAL ADVENTURES
below the radar
Text by Paul L. Underwood

With so many museums, galleries, institutions and more offering special  digital access to their most sought-after experiences, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are our favorite below-the-radar. The sheer volume and depth of online cultural offerings from museums, galleries, and other institutions can be overwhelming. And just like in real life, you should by all means prioritize the biggest hits—if you’ve never been to the Louvre, taking a virtual tour of the museum sans touristes is the rarest of opportunities. But once you’ve made your way through those better-known attractions, there’s plenty of great experiences awaiting you in lesser-known, out-of-the-way digital corners. Here’s a selection of those, ranging from a behind-the-scenes tour of the world’s leading automotive museum to a deep dive into some of the most pristine ocean waters.
VIRTUAL DIVES INTO NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARIES

An irony of tourism is that by visiting some of the world’s most beautiful places, we damage them, too. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers a better, and timely, alternative: virtual deepwater tours of some of the world’s most vulnerable waterways, from American Samoa to the Florida Keys. If you feel stirred by the sea, this is a can’t-miss.

THE TENEMENT MUSEUM

Touring this museum, housed in a former tenement building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is a moving experience—seeing the cramped spaces where generations of immigrants lived and dreamed is overpowering. A virtual tour brings these stories to life, as you look around any of the five on-site apartments and hear the story of what happened to these turn-of-the-century strivers, many of whom have descendants living in the city today. The museum is also offering a host of digital experiences, from virtual live events to custom Zoom backgrounds.

THE PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM

The Petersen just might house the world’s most impressive set of automobiles under one roof, many of which aren’t on public display. Right now, it’s hosting live virtual tours of its vaults in LA, which means you’ll see cars that aren’t on view during non-pandemic times. It also means you can ask questions as you go, a rarity in the virtual-tour field. Don’t worry if you can’t make a live tour—recordings are posted online afterward.

THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM

No trip to San Diego is complete without a tour of this iconic aircraft carrier, the longest-serving such ship in the 20th century, and the countless varieties of aircraft on deck. For now, though, treat yourself to an audio tour, which includes pilots from more than 20 different planes describing their experiences in depth. There’s also a family audio tour, which includes details about roughly 30 locations on the ship.

BASEBALL HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM

For many of us, this time of year is synonymous with America’s pastime, but this year the season has been delayed indefinitely, and the hall’s summer induction ceremony has already been postponed until next year. It’s an optimal time to visit the sport’s holiest shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, in Cooperstown, New York. Visiting virtually will let you peruse an incomparable online treasure trove of artifacts, dating from the sport’s early days. Another idea? Liven up your homeschooling with a virtual field trip.